Q: I have an employee who owns a mobile home and was in a relationship with her roommate. The roommate was paying the mortgage, while my employee covered the lot rent and other expenses. The relationship has dissolved. My employee intends to relocate, and would like to sell her mobile home. But the roommate is dragging her feet. There is no signed lease agreement. What are my employee’s best steps to remove the roommate? Does she have to evict her if she refuses to move? Can she simply give her notice, then change the locks after 30 days? Can she sell the mobile home, and let the roommate know it’s been sold?
A: If your employee truly owns the mobile home, the former girlfriend is a tenant on an oral lease. However, since she has been paying the mortgage, that may give her some ownership rights, and make it difficult for your employee to sell the home. If the former girlfriend has an ownership interest, based on some agreement, then your employee has three options. She could get her former girlfriend to sign over the title in exchange for some type of compensation; sue to have a court declare that the former girlfriend has no interest in the mobile home; or make a determination of the value of that interest so that the employee can buy her out.
With no signed lease agreement, I would recommend that your employee argue that her former girlfriend is a tenant on an oral lease, and proceed that way. In Minnesota when there is no written lease, a person paying rent is still considered a tenant, and the lease is called a month-to-month or periodic lease. This type of lease continues indefinitely until one party terminates the lease properly. In Minnesota, to end a month-to-month lease, state law requires your employee to give her tenant written notice to vacate one full rental period before the end date. For example, if your employee wants her tenant out by the end of December, she needs to give her written notice before the last day in November. Your employee doesn’t need to provide a reason for giving the notice to vacate. If her tenant moves out, then your employee’s problem is resolved. If her tenant stays on, even after receiving the notice to vacate, then your employee needs to file an eviction. However, if your employee gives the proper written notice to vacate, but then accepts rent for another month, the notice to vacate is waived, and another one will need to be given.
If the tenant remains in the home after receiving written notice to vacate, then your employee can file an eviction. The court may give the tenant up to seven days to move out. If the tenant remains in the property, the Writ of Recovery will need to be enforced against the tenant. The sheriff will post the Writ on the door of the rental unit, giving the tenant 24 hours to leave. If the tenant remains in the property after 24 hours, your employee should contact the sheriff to schedule a move-out. The sheriff typically shows up within a few days, and will remove the tenant quickly.
Your employee should try to work this out amicably before resorting to an eviction, which can make it difficult for her tenant to rent in the future. But if the tenant won’t leave after receiving written notice to vacate, then your employee may have to file an eviction. She should not attempt to remove the tenant on her own. If she tries to remove a tenant without going through the formal eviction process, she may be guilty of a crime and liable for civil penalties. Your employee should not change the locks on her home because that is also a crime, as it’s an attempt to remove or exclude their tenant. Most tenants call the police when they are locked out. Then your employee could be guilty of a misdemeanor, and the police could arrest her. After giving her tenant proper notice to vacate, your employee may sell the mobile home, but she needs to allow the tenant to stay on until the end of that month or notice period.
Kelly Klein is a Minneapolis attorney. Participation in this column does not create an attorney/client relationship with Klein. Do not rely on advice in this column for legal opinions. Consult an attorney regarding your particular issues. E-mail renting questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Kelly Klein c/o Star Tribune, 650 3rd Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Information provided by readers is not confidential.